Jonathan Franzen How to be Alone

ISBN 13: 9780007147250

How to be Alone

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9780007147250: How to be Alone

Jonathan Frantzen's "The Harper's Essay" is reprinted in "How To Be Alone", alongside the personal essays and painstaking, often funny reportage. Although his subjects range from the sex-advice industry to the way a supermax prison works, each piece wrestles with familiar themes of Franzen's writing - the erosion of civic life and private dignity, and the hidden persistence of loneliness, in postmodern, imperial America. Recent pieces include a moving essay on his father's struggle with Alzheimer's disease and a rueful account of Franzen's brief tenure as an Oprah Winfrey author.

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Review:

Jonathan Franzen is smart and brash, the kind of person you want as your social critic but not as a brother-in-law. Many of the 14 essays in How to Be Alone, by the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Corrections, first appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, and elsewhere. A long, much-discussed rumination on the American novel, (newly) titled "Why Bother?," is included, as well as essays on privacy obsession, the U.S. post office, New York City, big tobacco, and new prisons. At his best, as in "My Father's Brain," a piece on his father's struggle with Alzheimer's, Franzen can make the ordinary world utterly riveting. But at times, it can be difficult to discern where Franzen stands on any particular subject, as he often takes both sides of an argument. Valid attempts to reflect ambiguity s! ometimes lead to obfuscation, especially in his essays on privacy and tobacco, although his belief that small-town America of years gone by offered the individual little privacy certainly rings true. Franzen can write with panache, as in this comment after he watched, without headphones, a TV show during a flight: "(It) became an exposé of the hydraulics of insincere smiles." A few of the shorter pieces appear to be filler. Franzen shines brightest when he gets edgy and a little angry, as in "The Reader in Exile": "Instead of Manassas battlefield, a historical theme park. Instead of organizing narratives, a map of the world as complex as the world itself. Instead of a soul, membership in a crowd. Instead of wisdom, data." --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

About the Author:

Jonathan Franzen is the author of THE TWENTY- SEVENTH, STRONG MOTION and THE CORRECTIONS. His fiction and nonfiction appear frequently in the NEW YORKER and HARPER'S, and he was named one of the best American novelists under forty by GRANTA and the NEW YORKER. He lives in New York City.

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Franzen, Jonathan
Published by Fourth Estate Ltd (2002)
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Jonathan Franzen
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